For decades, populations of Asian and African rhinoceros have been in decline due to the loss of their habitat and, most importantly, poaching.
The rhinoceros are hunted for their horns, which are made of keratin. Though there is no scientific basis for this, the powdered rhinoceros horn is said to have properties that can cure a number of diseases, fuelling one of the most profitable illegal trades in the world. This black market is the cause of many thefts from museums around the world and it is for this reason that all of the specimens of rhinoceros displayed in Room 10 are models.
The rhinoceros is, therefore, in grave danger of extinction. Poachers are operating in increasingly devastating ways, using helicopters and automatic weapons. It is calculated that the rhinoceros will become extinct in nature within 30 years if their decline continues at the current rate.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has inserted all five rhinoceros species in its Red List of Threatened Species: the black rhinoceros, Javan rhinoceros and Sumatran rhinoceros in the “critically endangered” category, the Indian rhinoceros and the white rhinoceros.